By: Aleena Khan and Makena Vass
To say that the Glenelg Robotics Club is propelling the school into a more inclusive future is an understatement.
On the heels of being awarded a $10,000 prize at a Dec.1 SpArc Tank event hosted by The Arc Maryland, blasting off may be more appropriate.
Amitav Kohli (sophomore), Vivian Contreras (senior), and Spencer McGrath (junior) presented their innovative concept, finished first place, and won the $10,000 SpArc Tank grant. According to The Arc Maryland, the money is used to "ignite change through the development of new technology, resources, devices, or other initiatives to enhance the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Maryland."
When the three pitched their idea to further develop Glenelg’s Allied Sports program, they were not expecting the outcome to be so favorable, especially because they competed against three adult teams.
Their presentation highlighted the work they’ve done previously, which began earlier this school year with Kohli designing a device to help freshman Ryan Kobylski, a wheelchair bound member of the Allied Soccer team. To help him control the ball, Kohli designed a prototype that allows Kobylski to push the ball with ease. The contraption was made with a U-shaped PVC Pipe with pool noodles on the bumpers to simulate the kicking of the ball. The device cost around $16. The inexpensive price proves that it doesn't take a lot to change someone's experiences and opportunities.
Along the way, Contreras and McGrath were inspired by the effort and helped present the project at the spArc Tank event, where they inspired a parent to speak up about his own experiences. The parent, according to Contreras, explained to the judges that his “son is quadriplegic and seeing what [Kohli, Contreras, and McGrath] are doing with making these devices was something that stood out.”
As a result of their efforts, there has been an increased awareness and recognition for the Allied sports program, but Contreras said there is still work to do.
“We talked about how moving forward, we're going to be creating a club within Glenelg to give more students a chance to contribute to positive change,” Contreras said. “We want to continue modifying the device that we currently have to help other students who could benefit by using devices.”
As Allied bowling season approaches, the goal is to have students pair up with the Allied sports team members.
“We'll send a few students over or whoever wants to be part of the club, and then they play alongside the allied sports students, because that's one of our main points that we mentioned, playing alongside the students while developing a friendship,” Contreras said.
Contreras hopes that friendship can foster a more inclusive environment and bring more attention to, and awareness of, athletes who compete in Allied sports.
“There's sometimes not enough focus on being able to make sure that everyone has an equal playing field for a lot of things. So that was one of our things which was just making sure that kids have enough opportunities where they're able to participate in all the activities that tend to just be kind of overlooked or just glanced at for a second thought.”
The goal of the Allied sports program at Glenelg has always been to encourage everyone to have fun and to build a positive community.
With the incorporation of Kohli, Contreras, and McGrath’s efforts and the support from SpArc Tank, that goal will be more achievable than ever.